There was late drama in the Virtual Spanish GP as a last-gasp penalty for Charles Leclerc handed George Russell an unlikely victory over his F1 rival.

The pair were battling throughout Sunday night’s online race around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya but it looked like Leclerc, the Ferrari star, was going to seal another eSports victory when Russell was handed a three-second time penalty for cutting corners.

But as Russell tried to build a big enough gap over his rival, Leclerc was slapped with an identical penalty on the penultimate lap to give the young English driver his first Virtual GP triumph – in dramatic circumstances.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Russell, who impressed in his rookie season with backrunners Williams last season. “I’m not used to this winning thing – I’ve not done it a long, long time. I dearly missed it.

“When I got past Charles and I knew I had that 3s penalty, I was pretty furious. But when that radio message came in at the end… I was almost wetting my pants!”

Leclerc, who was denied his third victory in the series, commented: “It’s such a shame. But George was extremely quick, I knew it from the start.”

Alex Albon, Leclerc’s main rival in the previous two races for Red Bull, also looked to be in contention – but opted for a different strategy to Russell and Leclerc by two-stopping and finished fourth – behind former F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez.

Russell’s Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi was fifth, with Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson an impressive sixth – ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.

Thibaut Courtois was the fastest of the footballers – the Real Madrid goalkeeper was up in 12th – but only two places ahead of Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero on his Virtual F1 debut.

Golfer Ian Poulter and Barcelona midfielder Arthur Melo propped up the field, with Lando Norris retiring from the race completely.

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